Afuganisu-tan... with her only friend
Timaking is the creator and principal artist of "Afuganisu-tan", originally a webcomic and then published in print by SansaiBooks. His idea was to express the sociopolitical background of the current War Against Terror in Afghanistan through moe anthropomorphism; a very common device in Japanese manga and anime.
To this end, Timaking created feminine characters to represent Middle Eastern countries. We meet needy Pakisu-tan, sleepy-eyed Turkmenis-tan and of course Afuganisu-tan - represented as a clumsy little girl who is trying ever so hard to stand up for herself in a very tough neighborhood. We're also introduced to the self-centered, domineering "Meriken"...
The storyline is in 26 parts and basically follows the trials and tribulations of poor little Afuganisu-tan through history as she is bullied by her older, stronger and more avaricious neighbors. As we enter the modern era, Afugan (for short) is forced to leave her home, which is then occupied by a group of stray cats - Al Qaida. To quote the text, "The boss of the stray cats that settled in Afugan's house, was really hated by Meriken."
The story may be somewhat eyebrow-raising for us in the West as it is told not from our viewpoint, but from what Timaking as a Japanese thinks is the view of Afghanistan's people. Some have also criticized the manga treatment for trivializing the events of 9-11. For example, in episode 23 we see Meriken lounging on the White House lawn, drink in hand, sweetly saying "The world was made for me"... as the Bin Laden kitty-cat sneaks up from behind to bite her on the arm.
"Afuganisu-tan" is written in a way that explains the many Japanese expressions used in most manga comics, such as "sooo" for creeping up quietly and "taa" for scurrying away. English-speakers as well as Japanese can follow the storyline with ease. It should be mentioned that the original website is now offline but one may read the individual manga pages at this site.
Teaching history and current events using comic book imagery may seem odd, even ridiculous, but show "Afuganisu-tan" to any of today's teens and you might be surprised at their reaction. For the rest of us, take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy "Afuganisu-tan"... and see the world through another culture's eyes. (images via Rubbersoul1967)